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The Scotties Tournament of Hearts is off and running
With a full weekend of action and the first seven draws now in the books, here’s a quick lay of the land at the Canadian women’s curling championship in the Calgary bubble:
The cream is already rising to the top. Kerri Einarson’s defending-champion Team Canada became the first rink to reach four wins today by beating the Northwest Territories to improve to 4-0. Three-time champ Rachel Homan and her Ontario team are right behind Canada in Pool A at 3-0. The Pool B leader is the wild-card rink skipped by two-time champ Chelsea Carey, who’s filling in for Tracy Fleury. Manitoba’s Jennifer Jones, who’s going for her record seventh Scotties title, is 2-1, with the loss coming to Carey’s team. Sarah Hill’s Newfoundland & Labrador rink is 2-0, but has played opponents with a combined record of 0-6.
Homan is curling 86 per cent — at eight months pregnant. “It’s challenging because your body changes,” Homan told The Winnipeg Sun’s Ted Wyman. “But so far, so good.” Very good, actually: among skips, only Carey (88 per cent) is throwing better statistically. Homan believes she’ll get through the tournament fine. But alternate Danielle Inglis, who usually skips her own team, is ready to step in if needed.
The tournament survived its first health scare. Today’s Canada-Northwest Territories game was supposed to be played Saturday afternoon. It was postponed after an unidentified member of the Northwest Territories team fell ill with a suspected case of food poisoning. Tests for the coronavirus came back negative, so the game went ahead this morning.
One more thing: If you’re watching the Scotties but you haven’t seen That Curling Show, you really should check it out. Every night, six-time champ Colleen Jones and CBC Sports curling reporter extraordinaire Devin Heroux discuss what’s happening on and off the ice with some of the tournament’s biggest stars. Jennifer Jones, Chelsea Carey and Kerri Einarson have already joined them as guests, and last night’s show featured a tribute to the late, great Sandra Schmirler (see below). Also, Devin and show producer Sophie Baron made Colleen cry with a touching montage of all her Scotties championships. Tonight’s guest is Laurie St-Georges, the young Quebec skip who’s 2-1 and winning over fans in her first Scotties. Watch the show tonight and every night at 7:30 p.m. ET on the CBC Olympics Twitter, Facebook and Instagram channels.
Artemi Panarin is taking a leave of absence from the New York Rangers. The team says the 2019-20 NHL MVP finalist “vehemently and unequivocally denies” the allegations in what it calls a “fabricated” report by a Russian newspaper claiming Panarin physically assaulted an 18-year-old woman at a bar in Latvia a decade ago. The allegations were made by Alexei Nazarov, a former NHL player who coached Panarin’s KHL team at the time of the alleged incident. Nazarov has been critical of Panarin’s public opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin, which included a recent Instagram post supporting vocal Putin critic Alexei Navalny. The Rangers called the newspaper report an “intimidation tactic” and said Panarin, who has family living in Russia, “is obviously shaken” and “will take some time away from the team.” Read more about this bizarre situation here.
A first-year Raptors assistant got hired as head coach of the Timberwolves. Chris Finch is making the big leap to replace Ryan Saunders, who steered Minnesota to a league-worst 7-24 record before getting fired. Finch worked with T-wolves president of basketball ops Gersson Rosas when they were with the Houston Rockets. Rosas called him “one of the most creative basketball minds in the NBA.” Read more about Finch and his new job here.
And in case you missed it…
A few other things from the weekend that you should know about:
Bianca Andreescu is hurt again. She withdrew from this week’s tournament in Adelaide and will also miss upcoming events in Doha and Dubai due to what Andreescu and her agent called a “lower-body issue.” Andreescu said the setback was a result of “playing long, tough matches” at the Australian Open and the Phillip Island Trophy after a 15-month layoff. Her agent said it was “not concerning at all but she has to think about the longevity of the season and of her career.” Andreescu hopes to return for the Miami Open, a high-end event that starts March 23. Read more about her latest absence here.
Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic won the Australian Open singles titles. Osaka beat Jennifer Brady in straight sets to capture her second Aussie title. She also owns a pair of U.S. Open titles and has won four of the last nine Grand Slams. No other woman has won more than one in that span. Djokovic crushed Daniil Medvedev in straight sets to win the men’s title for the third straight time. He now owns nine Australian Open singles titles — two more than anyone else has won in the Open era. With 18 Grand Slam titles, Djokovic trails Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal by two for the all-time men’s lead.
Auston Matthews is making a strong case for MVP. With three two-goal performances in his last four games, the Leafs star now has 18 goals in 18 games this season and leads the Rocket Richard Trophy race by six goals. Connor McDavid has a seven-point lead in the Art Ross chase (and is eight up on Matthews), so buckle up for some heated Hart Trophy debate over the next few months. Matthews seems to have the edge at the moment, partly because he’s led Toronto to a league-best 14-3-2 record.
The Canadian women’s soccer team got its first win in more than a year. After returning from a long, pandemic-induced layoff with a 1-0 loss to the U.S. last Thursday at the SheBelieves Cup in Orlando, Canada beat Argentina 1-0 yesterday. The Canadians’ final match at the four-team, round-robin-only tournament is Wednesday vs. Brazil. With seven key veterans unavailable for the event, rookie head coach Bev Priestman has been testing out some younger players. Four have earned their first senior-level caps at the SheBelieves Cup. Read more about Canada’s win over Argentina and watch highlights here.
Mikaela Shiffrin’s world championship streak was snapped. The American’s bid for her fifth consecutive slalom world title fell short when she placed third Saturday in northern Italy. But Shiffrin still had a terrific meet, finishing with four medals (including gold in the combined) at her first world championships since her father’s unexpected death last year. Only 25 years old, she already owns six world titles and two Olympic gold medals. Read more about Shiffrin’s astounding numbers here.
The NHL’s Lake Tahoe games didn’t go smoothly, but they still looked fantastic. It was a bad look for the league when Saturday afternoon’s game between Vegas and Colorado had to be halted after the first period and delayed until midnight ET because the sun was melting the ice. On the, uh, bright side, it led to this accidentally immortal quote from Gary Bettman: “… The sunshine has always been our enemy.” Sunday’s Boston-Philly game was also pushed to the evening for fear of the sun. But, let’s face it, the games themselves never really mattered. This was a glorified Instagram shoot, and we got plenty of gorgeous pics like the one below. You can see more here.
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